Are Ben Howland's Days as UCLA Head Coach Numbered?

Howard RubenContributor IDecember 21, 2012

Ben Howland is rumored to be on the hot seat at UCLA...again.
Ben Howland is rumored to be on the hot seat at UCLA...again.Stephen Dunn/Getty Images

Does UCLA Athletic Director Dan Guerrero suddenly think he's Lakers owner Jerry Buss? 

Why else would he be thinking of replacing Ben Howland as head coach of the men's basketball team before the season ends?

According to Bruins Report Online, officials in Westwood are considering replacing Howland.  Sources say he's lost control of the team and is the reason why so many players have left over the past couple of seasons.

Sources are saying that is leaning toward replacing basketball coach Ben Howland, possibly before end of season.

These reports are coming at a time when UCLA is riding a mildly exciting three-game winning streak and boasting an 8-3 record as it heads into the holiday season and some formidable opponents.

Regardless of internal problems, now would be the absolute worst time to relieve Howland of his duties as head coach.  He's directing one of the top recruiting classes in UCLA history and the reason they came to Westwood was because they wanted to play for Howland.

Has the team struggled out of the gate?  Of course it has.

Playing so many new, young players has not been easy and they looked horrible in losses and near losses to mediocre opponents (Cal Poly and UC Irvine).

Tyler Lamb and Josh Smith both left the team this season, but that really wasn't surprising.  Neither were getting the minutes they wanted as the Bruins were top-heavy with freshman phenoms—such as Shabazz Muhammed, Jordan Adams and Kyle Anderson.

Howland may have done too good of a job in recruiting, because players like Lamb and Smith got shoved aside. 

But, let's be real here: Josh Smith was a total bust at UCLA.  He had tremendous talent coming to Westwood and never dedicated himself to getting better or getting slimmer and in better shape.

The Bruins have Fresno State, Missouri, Cal and Stanford all at Pauley Pavilion over the next few weeks.  The Tigers are ranked 12th in the nation and all of the games will be big tests.

Still, regardless of the outcome, it would be crazy to fire the coach in midseason as these reports indicate might happen.

That's not to say it couldn't and shouldn't happen if this team doesn't do some damage in the NCAA Tournament this Spring.  With so many star players choosing to play one season and bolt for the NBA, the pressure to win instantly is more intense than ever.

Alumni and big UCLA donors are apparently fed up with Howland and think it's time for a change. They may be right, but now is not the time.